Middle English in Early Auden

Conor Leahy

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W. H. Auden’s debts to Old English and Old Norse literature have long been celebrated, but his lifelong interest in Middle English has received far less critical attention. This article examines how Auden’s formative encounters with Middle English verse and prose influenced his poetry between 1922 and 1930. It surveys the different anthologies, editions, and critical perspectives that shaped Auden’s early medievalism, and through an analysis of the 1927 poem ‘Out of sight assuredly, not out of mind’, it explores many of the difficulties that Auden had in turning England’s medieval past into a modern poetic resource. Finally, using the evidence of Auden’s surviving lecture notes, this article uncovers an important new source for the seminal poem ‘Doom is dark and deeper than any sea-dingle’: two lines from Laamon’s Brut: ‘vppen Þan Þe hit falleð | he scal uaren of londe’ [upon whomever it fall, he must leave his land].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-549
Number of pages23
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number295
Early online date10 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

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